jueves, 30 de noviembre de 2017

A Doping Scandal Hits La Vuelta

The Vuelta a Colombia's peloton in 2016.
La Vuelta a Colombia deserves to be one of the world's great stage races: It's got dramatic climbs, spectacular vistas and Colombia's great cycling legacy.

However, the Vuelta has lost stature during recent decades due to Colombia's violence, loss of big sponsors, and Colombian cycling stars' preference for focusing on European racers. Fewer foreign teams have participated, even tho La Vuelta offers climbs higher than those of the Tour de France.

And now, a doping scandal, has dealt it another blow - just when Colombian cycle racing seems to be entering a new golden era.

During this year's Vuelta eight riders tested positive for banned substances, mostly CERA, a blood booster, and seven of the eight were Colombians. (A second blood or urine sample will now be tested to confirm or negate the first results.) One of the positives belongs to under-23 champion Róbinson López. That's a huge number relative to the number of race participants and the small number of ricers tested: Only the stage winner, race leader and two riders chosen at random were tested at each stage. If that limited testing produced eight positives, it suggests that many more doped but were not caught. More positive results may, in fact, still be announced.

Colombia's drug testing capacity is limited. Its only internationally certified laboratory was closed down temporarily this year after it produced incorrect results for samples secretly mailed to it by the World Anti-Doping Agency. The Vuelta samples were tested in a U.S. lab.

Among other problems, such as lack of resources, Colombian doping controls suffer from a fundamental conflict of interests because Coldeportes is both a cycle-racing sponsor and responsible for anti-doping control, reports Bicycling magazine.

The Cololmbian Cycling Federation's responses have been less than reassuring. When, during the Vuelta, Swiss cyclist Alexandre Ballet told a journalist that he'd seen pills being handed out, the Colombian federation sent a protest letter to the Swiss Cycling Federation asking Ballet to "make clear that he did not mean that Colombian cycling was dirty."

"We are very surprised by these declarations, which cast a shadow over our organization," and anti-doping efforts.

Sadly,  Ballet's criticisms were evidently right on.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

miércoles, 29 de noviembre de 2017

Does the Motor Make the Bike?

Can you tell which one is the bicycle?
Colombia, the nation of magical realism may be the only place where a motorized, three-wheeled vehicle apparently qualifies as a 'bicycle'.

What's the difference? A motorized bicycle waits on
the sidewalk, while a regular motorcycle passes on the street. 
At least, that's the way it appeared the other day on Carrera Septima's bike lane, which this loud, polluting monstrosity was sharing with cyclists, as police watched apathetically.

For the record, the motorized bicitaxis, which I understand are illegal wherever they are, are, tragically, replacing the traditional pedal-powered bicitaxis. The vehicles' two-stroke engines pump out more pollution than do most cars.

However, it's no big deal. After all, the equally loud and polluting bicimotores have long been invading our bike lanes, in the face of police and other authorities' total apathy.

In the case of the bicitaxi, I chased after it, but it roared down Carrera Septima, charging thru red lights along the pedestrian-only avenue. Do you think anybody cared?

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

martes, 14 de noviembre de 2017

What are the Bicycle Cops Good For?

Bogotá's bicycle cops are back, after several years' absence. But one has to wonder why.

Bike cops frisking someone near Independence Park.
Bike cops have lots of advantage: they can move fast, to chase down bad guys, range over wide parts of the city, and quickly reach places like alleys and narrow streets where, driving or on foot, they might not be able to get to at all.

But Bogotá's bike cops don't actually seem to exploit these advantages. I see them roaming just a few central Bogotá streets, usually eating, chatting amongst themselves, or tirelessly pursuing bad guys in their smartphones. About the only arguably useful law enforcement I've seen them do is clearing poor street vendors off of the sidewalks - a task done equally well on foot.

But why pick on the cycling cops? Whether on foot, in cars or in helicopters, they don't seem motivated to do much except search young people for drugs, in the hopes of squeezing out a bribe.

Bike cops pedaling down
Ave. Septima.
I wish I weren't so cynical. But a few months ago, foreigner who lives here and has a nearby business was walking along in the evening when a drunk kid stabbed him several times in the back. He almost dies from the blood loss, spent mmore than a month in the hospital, lost a part of a kidney and is still slowly recovering. Do you think the police care? More than two months later, they still haven't interviewed the witness and told the victim's son to track down the relevant videos.

A few weeks before that attack, a Colombian acquaintance got stabbed in the hand during a mugging attempt. Since he filed the initial report, the police have done no follow-up to try to, say, identify the assailant.

How many more people have these guys since stabbed and robbed, because the cops just don't care?

This afternoon, with this on my mind, I passed a group of a half-dozen bike cops doing their usual thing, enjoying coffee on a side street. When I stopped to take photos, they detained and frisked me and made me erase the pictures 'because they were a security threat.' Or, perhaps they were embarrased?

'Move on', 'move on.' Bike cops clearing out street vendors.
In front of the San Francisco Church, in La Candelaria.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogota Bike Tours

The Bike Messenger Boom

Rappi bike messengers in a bike lane near the Zona Rosa in north Bogotá.
Years ago, back in Seattle, Washington, I worked as a bicycle messenger. It was one of the best and most memorable jobs I ever held: pumping up those hills, skidding around curvers, zipping down hills, slipping between trucks and buses with only inches to spare: We competed to see who could make the most deliveries in a day, and it was the closest I'll ever come to being a professional athlete.

Rappi messengers waiting for a job outside a
north Bogotá supermarket.
Not the least pleasure I got from it was marching, sweaty and mud-splattered, into the offices of the most high-powered and uptight executive offices in town.

Not long after my time there, bike messenger started dying, the victim of faxes, and then e-mail. Today, I suspect, the only things still messengered are food, medical supplies and, maybe, art pieces.

My old company, Elliot Bay Messengers, is gone now.

But Bogotá, it seems, is still behind the curve in information technology, and bike messengering is booming. A number of small companies pioneered the industry, but it took the smartphone boom and deep pockets such as Rappy and Uber Eats to make it the ubiquitous industry it is today.

Don't drop those bags! Dangling lunches off of handlebars.
Unfortunately, the big boys, like Rappi and Uber Eats, employ bicycles out of economics and speed, not any principles of sustainable transport. They also have motorcyclists and, undoubtedly, cars. But bicycles are cheap and slip past traffic jams, particularly thanks to Bogotá's expanding bike lane network. 

Other companies, such as CONTRARRELOJ and A Pedal appear to use exclusively bicycles.

Winding thru traffic.
A local food delivery guy on the pedal.

Frutapp waiting to go.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

sábado, 4 de noviembre de 2017

Edwin's Ingenious Cargo Trailers

Edwin and Alejandro making a final adjustment to a cargo trailer.
Edwin pedaling a bike with
cargo trailer.
For seven years, Edwin Vasquez has made industrial equipment in his shop in Bogotá's gritty, blue collar Samper Mendoza neighborhood, a half block off of Calle 26. Then, two years ago, he made the acquaintance of Edwin, an inveterate bicycle tourist, who once rode to the southern tip of Argentina to campaign for peace in Colombia.

Edwin makes a
final adjustment.
Since then, Edwin has created a series of practical, innovative and functional bicycle cargo trailers, which they were test riding the other day in front of his shop. The one I tried out was a bit top-heavy and swayed from side to side, but otherwise functioned well. Another, with a low platform, would likely provide a more stable ride.

Edwin Vasquez Santos: Kontrol
Tel: 269-5903 Cel: 320-866-3603
Carrera 25 No. 24B-45 
e-mails: kontrol.infoindustrial   or   edwinvasquez.kontrol  , both at gmail.

Edwin's workshop: Kontrol industrial equipment.

Alejandro and Edwin in Kontrol.
Blog by Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours